Demystifies Academic Writing in They Say, I Say

Did you know the book They Say, I Say, by Gerald Graff,  demystifies academic writing, teaching students to frame their arguments in the larger context of what else has been said about their topic–and providing templates to help them make the key rhetorical moves?

The best-selling new composition book published in this century, in use at more than 1,000 schools, They Say / I Say has essentially defined academic writing, identifying its key rhetorical moves, the most important of which is to summarize what others have said (“they say”) to set up one's own argument (“I say”). The book also provides templates to help students make these key moves in their own writing.


They Say, I Say is a short book with a simple premise -- it correctly states that no argument occurs in a vacuum, but must depend upon what others have to say about it. Moreover, the authors believe one of the principle difficulties which students have with persuasive writing is an inability to correctly utilize these necessary ingredients (introduce what others have to say on the subject, and then present their own voice on the matter).

They Say, I Say summarizes the important aspects of this conversation in persuasive writing and provides templates for students to summarize what others say, introduce their own points, and perform various other techniques. While one may think the use of such templates leads to formulaic writing, the authors suggest the opposite is the case. By understanding how to shape their ideas, students can learn to better express their orginal thoughts, thus making their writing more individual.

The authors' thesis is that writing is an uncomplicated process which can be reduced to a handful of rhetorical components. If students see writing as a social act, joining a larger conversation already in process, they will produce engaging writing which both they and their teachers will enjoy. Since the book is laced with examples of effective and ineffective writing, there is no doubt as to which the authors aim for, making evaluation a simple, somewhat objective process.

This book seeks to be accessible to a mass audience. It's written in vernacular English, using examples from current culture and respected print sources. It is so straightforward that teachers can use it at multiple levels, from advanced middle school up through college composition. It's so explicit that it could even be used without a teacher, with only a writing group or college writing center to fill in the role of hands-on assistance with individual problems.

This "With Readings" edition contains the full text of Graff and Birkenstein's original short primer of the same title. The original is less than 150 pages and can be digested in small segments by teachers and students alike. This edition contains over 250 pages of articles from respected print and online publications to guide students into the larger writerly discourse.

They Say, I Say is a valuable book that has rudimentary concepts about writing and how you can improve your writing. The difference between this book and other books claiming to improve your writing technique is the presentation. "They Say, I Say" is extremely simple to read. The authors craft each section into a mini lesson, which help your overall writing capacity.